The bodhran is a flat Irish drum that was originally used for separating chaff from grain, according to the web site Celtic Instruments. This drum consists of a stretched skin or synthetic head over a shallow, wooden, circular frame. It is played with a short stick known as a tapper, and makes a great percussion instrument for musicians of any age. Choosing a bodhran is a simple task for anyone who understands the basics of quality drum construction.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Choose between a tunable bodhran or a tacked bodhran. According to The Harp and Dragon, a tacked bodhran has its head attached with tacks and can't be tuned. Tunable versions have the heads clamped on with metal hardware, and can be tightened or loosened to change the sound.
Investigate the differences between natural skin drum heads and synthetic heads. Goatskin heads will have a deeper sound, but they need to be oiled regularly and are more affected by moisture than synthetic heads.
Understand the different sizes of bodhrans. They range from 10 inches to 26 inches, but most players use a 14 inch to 18 inch drum. Smaller sizes are recommended for children or people of slight stature who find holding the larger sizes uncomfortable.
Look for a high quality frame. The wood should be free of cracks, warping, or knots and have a smooth finish. Examine the join where the hoop is closed. The two ends of the wood should be joined completely, without gaps.
Examine the drum head. If it is natural skin, discard any drums with holes, gouges, or rips in the head. Synthetic heads should be blemish-free, with no scratches or dents.
Listen to each bodhran you are considering. Small differences in the construction can drastically change the sound of two similar drums, according to Bill Woods, professional bodhran player and author of Bodhran: The Basics.
Tips and warnings
- Choose a bodhran that is easy to hold and makes an enjoyable sound. If you're uncomfortable playing it or dislike how it sounds, you're unlikely to enjoy playing it.
- Consider starting out with an inexpensive model before making the commitment to buy an expensive bodhran, especially if you've never played one before.
- Do not buy a bodhran with a cracked frame. Most bodhrans are cheaper to replace than repair when they have suffered serious damage to their frame.
- Do not attempt to tune the bodhran without following proper instructions, or you may burst or stretch the head.
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